Army Veteran, Gunman in Colorado Shooting, had History of Mental Illness


By Debbie Gregory.

He was once a standout student in law school and an Army medic. But in the very early morning hours on New Year’s Eve, 37-year-old Matthew Riehl shot four sheriff’s deputies who responded to a complaint at his apartment in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, killing Sheriff’s Deputy Zackari Parrish.

At 5:15 a.m, law enforcement was called out to the apartment to investigate a complaint of a “verbal disturbance” involving two men. One of the men told them the suspect “was acting bizarre and might be having a mental breakdown” but the deputies found no evidence of a crime.

They were called back less than an hour later and came under fire almost immediately after entering the apartment and trying to talk with the suspect, who was holed up inside a bedroom. They were forced to retreat.

Riehl was killed during the subsequent shootout with a police tactical team that left a SWAT officer injured.

Deputy Parrish, 29, leaves behind his wife Gracie and two young daughters.

Riehl enlisted in the Army Reserves in 2003, and in 2006 he joined the Wyoming Army National Guard. He deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom from April 2009 to March 2010. He was honorably discharged in 2012.

Riehl had a history of mental issues, and had escaped from a veterans mental health ward in 2014 during a stay for a psychotic episode. His mother told authorities that her son had post-traumatic stress disorder from his Iraq war deployment and was refusing to take his medication to treat the condition.

By mid-2016, Riehl was at the center of a string of worrisome events reported by police in Colorado and Wyoming. He posted tirades on social media about the faculty at the Wyoming law school and sent harassing emails to police after getting a speeding ticket.

Riehl posted videos criticizing Colorado law enforcement officers in profane, highly personal terms. He also used social media to livestream the confrontation leading up to the shooting.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

No Shortage of Acts of Heroism from Military, Veterans and First Responders

route 91

By Debbie Gregory.

We often hear of heroic deeds performed by members of the military, veterans and first responders, not only when they are on the job, but also when they are in “civilian mode.”

At the Route 91 concert shooting, there were numerous acts of bravery and self-sacrifice. Eyewitness Russell Bleck said, “Thank God it was at a country concert, there were so many ex-military there. You saw these men jump into action, their training … not even in uniform. I didn’t see a single one taking cover, these guys were just running directly into the danger zone.”

Iraq war veteran Colin Donohue guided people to safety and started caring for the injured, in spite of not having any formal medical training.

Marine Austin Cox ran toward the gunfire and saved the life of a perfect stranger, Katrina Hannah, who was shot in the neck and shoulder. Austin picked her up and made a run for it – getting her safely to the hospital.

Tom McIntosh, who was severely bleeding in the back of a pickup truck, owes his life to James Lawson’s Army Reserves training as an EMT. The makeshift tourniquet on McIntosh’s leg was failing him. “I walked up there and he was actively bleeding,” Lawson said, noting that the belt was in the wrong spot. “I adjusted the belt, got it up there where it should be, tightened it down, stopped the bleeding, hung out there for 10-15 minutes and some savior in a pickup truck asked if we needed a ride. We said, ‘Yeah’ and threw them all in the bed of a pickup truck and we took off the hospital.” The move saved McIntosh’s life. “I wouldn’t have made it,” he said. “I’m very thankful that James was there to help me.”

Renee Cesario met Marine Brendan Kelly just two hours before Jason Aldean took the stage. The pair were dancing near the front of the stage when the shots began to ring out. “Before I knew what was going on, Brendan tackled me down to the ground and covered me from the fire.” In-between rounds, the pair ran for safety — with Brendan leading the way. When Renee’s family thanked Brendan for saving her life, his response? “Absolutely, that’s what we do, take care of our own and those around us. Glad I could be there for her in that crazy time.”

Marine veteran Taylor Winston commandeered a utility truck he found with the keys in it, and over the course of two trips, ferried some 30 people to the hospital. The only reason he didn’t make a third trip was because emergency crews were on scene at that point. “I think a lot of my training in the military helped me in the situation,” Winston said.  And he brushed off the title of “hero,” as heroes often do.

And on a personal note, my assistant’s daughter, Aria James, who I’ve known since she was nine years old, was at the concert with her boyfriend, Navy veteran Reed Broschart. Like many other men there, Reed’s military training kicked in, and he guided Aria to safety, physically covering her on the ground each time shots were being fired.

To these brave men, and the countless others who put personal safety aside to help others, thank you.

Thank You.


Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Deshauna Barber- Not Your Average Miss USA

miss usa

By Debbie Gregory.

For the first time in 14 years (and only third time in history), Miss District of Columbia took home the crown at the Miss USA pageant

Newly crowned Miss USA, Deshauna Barber, is a 26-year-old Army officer from the District of Columbia who gave perhaps the strongest answer of the night when asked about women in combat.

“As a woman in the United States Army, I think … we are just as tough as men. As a commander of my unit, I’m powerful, I am dedicated,” Barber said. “Gender does not limit us in the United States.”

A Logistics Commander for the 988th Quartermaster Detachment Unit at Fort Meade, MD, Barber was uniquely qualified to answer the judges’ question. Barber is the first-ever military member to win Miss USA.

Barber said she plans to use the pageant’s spotlight and her title to support veteran’s causes and tackle the issue of suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder among military members.

“Making sure they have what they need when they return from deployment,” she said when asked what she was most excited about after winning. “My best friend is currently deployed in Afghanistan and I want to make sure when she comes back, she has the resources she needs to heal any internal mental scars she has.”

The 26-year-old lieutenant said she plans to take a break from the Army Reserves, a move she had previously discussed with her superiors, should she win the title.

“Two days a month is definitely not active duty. It is an obligation that I signed up for but they are very flexible in the United States Army Reserves.”

Barber, who graduated from Virginia State University in 2011, joined the military at age 17. Her parents and siblings also serve; her father was deployed overseas to Iraq after the Sept. 11 attacks.

On the subject of military service, Barber said, “It’s something that runs through our veins — patriotism and service for this country.”

The new Miss USA was not all business though. When asked about her favorite part of the process, Barber said, “Swimsuit was probably my favorite part; I worked hard on this body.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.